Best Savings Accounts of 2021

Laveta Brigham

Gone are the days of hiding cash under the mattress for that rainy day. © Money; Getty Images Money-Best-Savings-Account Now, the financially savvy save their money in online bank accounts where saving rates can help it grow each year. Savings accounts present a low-risk alternative to stock market investments. Because […]

Gone are the days of hiding cash under the mattress for that rainy day.



diagram: Money-Best-Savings-Account


© Money; Getty Images
Money-Best-Savings-Account

Now, the financially savvy save their money in online bank accounts where saving rates can help it grow each year.

Savings accounts present a low-risk alternative to stock market investments.

Because of FDIC insurance, there’s virtually no risk to depositors and you can access the money anytime.

6 Best Savings Accounts of 2021

Here are Money’s top picks for the best savings accounts that you can open today:

PenFed Credit Union: Best Credit Union

Barclays Online Savings: Best for Zero Minimum Balance

CIT Bank: Best for Account Options

American Express: Best for Prompt 24/7 Customer Service

Ally Bank: Best Online Tools

Capital One: Best All Around for Online Savings

PenFed Credit Union: Best Credit Union

Since they’re non-profits, credit unions can usually charge lower fees and pay higher interest rates on savings account balances.

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PenFed is no exception. What sets this credit union apart, however, is its solid online infrastructure available throughout the U.S.

Plus, PenFed has branches in 13 states, Washington D.C., Guam, and Puerto Rico. Anyone can open a savings account with a $5 balance and not have to worry about monthly maintenance fees.

PenFed’s Premium Online Savings Account offers a high-interest rate of 0.60% APY (as of December 2020) on your entire balance. The account is also federally insured by the National Credit Union Association (NCUA) for up to $250,000.

All earned dividends are credited monthly, but daily balances over $250,000 do not earn interest.

The Premium Online Savings Account doesn’t allow access to ATMs. You can still use ATMs to withdraw cash but you’d have to pay ATM fees. (A lot of online banks reimburse other banks’ ATM fees.)

Paying ATM fees is a turn-off for some account holders but for others this type of savings account is actually a benefit. Some serious savers look for accounts that make early withdrawals difficult. This extra friction to withdrawals makes them less likely to access the money.

Of course, you could always transfer money from savings into a regular checking account using PenFed’s mobile app which comes with all the services you’d expect from a major national bank: mobile check deposit and constant access to your bank statements, for example.

PenFed is short for Pentagon Federal Credit Union. It was founded to help military personnel and their families. While PenFed still offer products tailored specifically to the needs of military members, its online savings account is available to anyone, whether or not they served in the Armed Forces.

COVID 19 and PenFed

PenFed put out a statement on its website urging its members to log in to their account and see if their products are eligible to skip a payment as a form of assistance.

Barclays Online Savings: Best for Zero Minimum Balance

Barclays does not require a minimum balance in order to open an online savings account, nor does it charge monthly maintenance fees.

Naturally, you’d need to put some money in your new account if you wanted to earn interest with Barclay’s 0.45% APY (as of December 2020), but there are no minimum balance requirements that must be met month after month for fear of penalties or fines.

Barclays’ website offers simple functionality and provides a helpful tool: its Savings Assistant. This tool helps account holders crunch the numbers while encouraging long-term savings to meet their financial goals.

If you want to save up for a down payment on a house, for example, you could fill out some basic information and calculate just when you’ll reach your goal.

This bank’s mobile app allows you to check your statement balance, look up your FICO credit score, and deposit a check through a user-friendly feature.

Like many other online banks, Barclays has no branches in the United States and no ATM access. But you can withdraw money by making transfers to a linked checking account at a different financial institution.

Since Barclays offers only savings accounts and CDs in the States, you’d likely have another bank for checking anyway.

Barclays Bank dates back to 17th century Britain, making it one of the oldest banks still in existence. Stateside, the bank is federally insured by the FDIC up to $250,000 per account holder.

COVID 19 and Barclays:

Barclays has updated its call center hours and added more customer support agents to better serve its clients. While some relief efforts are being offered to clients with products like loans, as of this writing there has been no change in policy regarding their online savings account.

CIT Bank: Best for Account Options

CIT Bank offers two online savings accounts: Its Savings Builder and Money Market accounts.

The Savings Builder account pays 0.45% APY (as of December 2020) and has an opening deposit requirement of $100. This account offers two ways for you to earn that yield, either by making monthly $100 deposits or by maintaining a $25,000 balance.

If you like this account but lack $25,000 in liquid funds, making monthly deposits is a good opportunity to still earn interest while saving. It’s easiest to set up automatic transfers or direct deposits.

The Money Market account, on the other hand, offers a 0.50% APY (as of December 2020) and has no fees or balance requirements, presenting a simpler alternative to the Savings Builder account.

Both accounts are FDIC-insured, have interest compounded on a daily basis, and offer easy check deposits through CIT Bank’s mobile app.

CIT Bank offers customer support around the clock through its website and automated phone service. Its mobile app also allows you to make transfers and check your balance and account history. Both iPhone and Android users rate the app highly.

COVID 19 and CIT Bank:

CIT Bank is urging clients who have been impacted by COVID-19 to reach out and discuss options. The company provided a phone number for deposit accounts and mortgages but didn’t provide a specific number for online savings accounts.

American Express: Best for Prompt 24/7 Customer Service

American Express is well-known for its credit cards. If you like to keep a lot of your banking under the same banner, Amex offers a Personal Savings account with 0.50% APY (as of December 2020).

To open an account, you won’t need a minimum opening deposit, nor will you be charged monthly or annual fees in order to save at Amex’s competitive rates.

Like other online accounts, Amex limits withdrawals to six per month. Unlike others, Amex does not charge a fee if you exceed this amount. It does, however, reserve the right to refuse your withdrawal request. (See Amex’s Regulation D Covid exceptions below.)

What sets this savings account apart from the rest is Amex’s superb customer service, available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. If you have any questions about your savings account, just pick up the phone and speak to a live agent at any time — no automated responses.

This savings account is just a small part of a large infrastructure American Express has been building for over a century. But knowing you can reach out whenever you need — regardless of time zones — is a big plus.

And yes, other banks do offer customer service around the clock, but American Express is the only bank we reviewed that can quickly connect you with a live agent at all times.

Another notable feature is an easy online application process that requires some basic personal information to be completed. To fund your FDIC-insured savings account, you can link a checking account for transfers or mail in a check.

COVID 19 and American Express:

American Express has raised its Regulation D six-monthly withdrawal limit up to nine. The company has also put a relief program in place, but the information seems to indicate it only applies to credit cardholders.

Ally Bank: Best Online Tools

Ally Bank’s most attractive feature is its buckets tool, designed to help you set goals and build your savings around them. This program lets you set up multiple divisions (or buckets) within the same account so you can manage those funds separately.

Buckets help you visualize your savings goals as individual targets you’re working to reach. This feature can simplify your savings process while still earning interest in a single high yield savings account.

Ally Bank also offers “boosters,” which can automate your savings by linking to your checking accounts. You can set a fixed amount to be saved or allow Ally’s algorithms to analyze your checking accounts in search of money you could save without compromising your budget and upcoming expenses.

With this kind of intelligent financial product, you can be as hands-on as you like or entrust the bank to make these transfers on your behalf.

Ally Bank’s Online Savings Account is FDIC-insured and offers a 0.50% APY (as of December 2020). It doesn’t require any minimum balances or maintenance fees and provides 24/7 customer support via email, online chat, or phone.

The fees this bank does charge are standard, from excessive transactions to overdraft items. Ally’s mobile app allows you to view balances, carry out transfers, and deposit checks by uploading two pictures.

COVID 19 and Ally Bank:

Ally Bank is providing relief in the face of COVID-19 for online savings account holders. Under normal circumstances, more than six withdrawals would be met with an excessive transaction fee. If you incur this fee, the bank will refund it.

Capital One Bank: Best All Around

If you’re comparing savings accounts, you already know traditional savings accounts at national bank branches don’t offer the highest APYs.

In fact, average savings account rates typically are a fraction of the highest rates you’d get with an online bank on this list.

Online banking has its drawbacks, too: there’s no in-person customer service, no dedicated ATM network, few or no local branches.

But for people in the Northeast and Gulf Coast areas, Capital One Bank offers an exception. It’s a full service online bank that also has local branches in places like Texas, Louisiana, and the Washington, D.C., and New York City metro areas.

Capital One’s Performance Savings pays 0.40% APY (as of December 2020). This bank charges no annual fees and requires no minimum deposit or minimum balance. The bank also has a checking account that pays 0.10% APY and charges no fees — an unusual combination.

And, even if you don’t live in an area with a Capital One branch, you can access money via the Allpoint ATM network which has tens of thousands of machines across the country.

Low fees, competitive rates, modern features, national bank feel — Capital One has a lot to offer — enough to make our list.

How We Chose The Best Savings Accounts

To find the best savings accounts in the United States we:

  • conducted over 200 hours of research
  • interviewed six experts
  • vetted a total of 19 companies.

Our process also included analyzing the number of complaints filed with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau for checking and savings accounts between 2017 and 2020.

We also looked into banks’ minimum balance requirements and annual percentage yields. Then we analyzed fees, accessibility, mobile app availability, and customer support.

DISCLAIMER:

Since March 2020, rates have been in flux due to external economic factors related to COVID-19 and the ongoing health crisis. We would urge you to search for the latest numbers when shopping for a savings account, as some of the annual percentage yields (APY) below may have changed. Additionally, in April 2020 the Federal Reserve Board amended Regulation D which limits savings account transfers to six per month. This move comes as complications related to the coronavirus have made access to savings a more urgent matter.

Other Savings Accounts We Considered

There is no shortage of suitable, and even above-average, savings accounts on the market.

Between brick-and-mortar banks, credit unions, and online banks, consumers with savings goals have a wide variety of financial products to choose from.

But, to make a list of the best savings accounts we had to establish some parameters to pare down the candidates. We focused on two specific criteria: the number of complaints in the CFPB and each account’s APY.

We then considered other factors such as fees, minimum balances and deposits, customer service, and online tools that make banking easier.

The savings accounts that didn’t make our list are by no means substandard, offering competitive APYs, minimal or no fees, or user-friendly apps.

Let’s take a look at some of the companies we strongly considered for our list of the best savings accounts. When possible we’ll explain what kept the bank off our best-of list above.

Marcus by Goldman Sachs

Marcus by Goldman Sachs, an online only bank, offers deposit accounts and personal loans to consumers.

Its High-Yield Savings account features almost everything a worthwhile online savings account needs: above-average APYs, a low minimum balance of $1, no maintenance fees, the ability to electronically transfer funds to and from other financial institutions, and relatively few complaints in the CFPB.

The main reason why Marcus by Goldman Sachs did not make our list of top savings accounts is its absence of a mobile deposit feature in its app. When we consider the bank also lacks physical branches, it makes it that much more difficult to deposit checks or cash into your account.

If and when mobile deposit is included on its app, we see no reason why Marcus by Goldman Sachs shouldn’t be on our list.

Vio Bank

Vio Bank is an online-only division of MidFirst Bank, an FDIC-insured institution. What sets Vio Bank apart is a consistently high APY on its High Yield Savings Account when compared to other online banks.

Even though the current coronavirus pandemic has led to lower APYs across the industry, Vio Bank is still among the highest (.66% as of December 2020). This bank doesn’t require a minimum balance and it has very few CFPB complaints.

All good things. However, when so many banks offer similar services and features, any small factor can affect our rankings. In this case, the High Yield Online Savings Account requires a $100 minimum deposit to open. Other than our nitpicking, it’s as good an account as any.

Citibank

Large, national banks were heavily impacted by our selection criteria, mainly because the larger the financial institution, the higher the number of complaints registered with the CFPB.

Additionally, many brick-and-mortar banks offer paltry APYs on savings accounts. Recently, however, many of these institutions are offering online options with higher APYs and the conveniences of online banking. Citibank’s Accelerate Savings is one such account.

This account pays 0.5% APY (as of December 2020) which is 10 times the national average of 0.05%. But you’d need a $500 opening deposit, and this account not available across the country.

The bonus of having both online customer support and physical branches helped make the Accelerate Savings Account a worthy inclusion in our almost-made-it list. If it weren’t for the limited availability and minimum deposit requirement, Citibank would have likely appeared on our list.

Synchrony

Synchrony Bank’s High Yield Savings Account is another online-only offering that provides substantial features for customers looking to bank on-the-go.

It has zero maintenance fees and no minimum balance requirements (although $0 balance for more than 60 days could lead to automatic account closure), and a mobile app that lets you deposit checks and make transfers.

The kicker: The account has an optional ATM card for cash withdrawals and transactions, a rare feature in online savings accounts.

Even with its pros, Synchrony Bank did not make the cut because of an adequate, but not stellar APY. Although with the constant flux of interest rates during COVID-19 times, it’s anyone’s guess as to which APYs will be highest by next month.

Discover Bank

Not to be outdone by the other credit card companies issuing deposit accounts, Discover Bank’s Online Savings Account helps customers who want to save by eliminating all types of service fees.

And even though Discover’s APY isn’t as high as others on the market, they proclaim it’s five times higher than the national average. Further, its mobile banking app has all the features customers look for in simple banking such as mobile check deposit, check-writing, and easy transfers.

Discover’s main drawback is the number of registered complaints with the CFPB, comparable to larger, national banks and higher than other online banks. That being said, if it can improve its complaint ratio, Discover’s Online Savings Account can earn a place on our list in the future.

Sallie Mae Bank

Known for its student loans and credit cards, Sallie Mae Bank now has an online only Money Market Account that currently (as of December 2020) pays 0.55% APR on all balances.

There’s no minimum balance requirement, and the bank doesn’t charge monthly maintenance fees. The account offers check-writing from the savings account.

We left this bank off our best-of list because it has no ATM access and its app tends to be glitchy according to iPhone and Android user reviews.

Varo Bank

Varo Bank makes a lot of top savings account lists, and for good reason. You could earn an APR of 2.81% healthy APY which is astronomical by today’s standards.

Varo, which also has checking accounts and a nice and simple app and online banking portal, didn’t make our list because you’d have to jump through several hoops to earn the bank’s top APY.

For example, you’d need to set up $1,000 or more in direct deposits each month. Plus, you’d need to use a Varo Bank checking account’s debit card to make at least five transactions a month.

Then, you couldn’t earn the APY on balances above $10,000.

Methodology

We began our research into the best savings account companies by compiling a list of 19 financial institutions and gathering their APYs.

We also looked up the number of complaints filed against these companies in the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s database under checking and savings accounts between 2017 and 2020.

After determining the average for both pieces of data, nine companies were discarded because their APY fell considerably below the average rate or their complaints exceeded the average number.

Then, for the accounts that made the first cut, we did more research into fees, minimum balance requirements, mobile app availability, customer support, federal backing, and other factors.

On the surface, a lot of these financial institutions look similar. Annual percentage yields differ by small amounts. With this in mind, we dug deeper, looking into the fine print for any potential deal-breakers.

Some of these financial institutions are bent on providing a high level of convenience along with decent return rates. We paid special attention to these kinds of offerings.

After taking into consideration all the above-mentioned factors, we cut our list down to six top picks that provide notable resources for consumers who want to save money without complications.

More Details

Traditional Versus Online Banks

Traditional Banks

For those who are less tech-savvy, stepping into a brick and mortar bank brings considerable benefits. From face-to-face assistance to the ability to safely deposit money in cash, traditional banking does have its perks.

While some big banks with physical branches do use online banking tools such as mobile apps and browser-based platforms, they still lack a lot of the convenience afforded by online banks.

A recent survey found that nearly one-third of Americans say they have or are planning to open an online bank account. Nevertheless, traditional banks don’t seem poised to disappear anytime soon.

Traditional Bank Pros

  • Branches, debit cards, and ATM availability
  • Clients can deposit cash at branches
  • In-person service
  • Some banks have been in service for over a century

Traditional Bank Cons

  • Return rates tend to be low
  • Fees are higher
  • Strict balance requirements

Online Banks

The very basis of online banks is the convenience of banking on the go, from a mobile device or a computer. This cuts out the need to visit a physical bank, fill out forms, wait in line, and explain to the teller the purpose of your visit.

And since online banks are federally-insured, they present a low risk.

When it comes to high-interest savings accounts, online banks offer more benefits than traditional savings accounts.

“There’s a convenience,” said Tatyana Bunich, President of Financial 1 Wealth Management Group. “Online banks don’t have brick and mortar rents to pay, many of their fees are either reduced or do not exist. Therefore it can be less expensive in the long run to use an online bank.”

While there are a few drawbacks to having an account online, such as the inability to deposit cash, we would urge anyone interested to assess all available features and make an informed decision.

Online Bank Pros

  • Easy check deposits (eDeposits)
  • Earn more returns on savings
  • Lower balance requirements

Online Bank Cons

  • No real options for non-Internet users
  • Limited ATM network
  • Can’t deposit cash directly

Best Practices For Saving Money

Perks of Savings Accounts

Saving money successfully often comes naturally when you develop good habits. Saving can be difficult, but the benefits are clear. Having money in the bank helps protect your budget when something goes wrong.

Whether it’s a job loss, an unexpected car repair, or an illness that keeps you out of work, having cash on hand means you don’t have to rely on credit cards, loans, or favors from friends to get you through a rough spot.

After you’ve saved enough money to cover unexpected expenses, you can explore other ways to make your money work for you. You could start investing in stocks, bonds, and shares of mutual funds or exchange-traded funds.

These financial products have the potential to earn more than even the best savings rates, but you also risk losing money.

“In today’s market, it makes sense to have a moderate to conservative portfolio,” said José Ricardo Alicea Cruz, Investment Advisor Representative at MassMutual Financial Group.

“And this needs to be aligned with the risk the client is willing to assume,” he said. “Specifically, due to the current lack of security and the volatility that’s expected in the next six to twelve months.”

But what do ordinary people — who don’t have the means to invest — get out of saving money? Setting money aside that might retain most of its buying power, depending on your account, can provide you security and peace of mind when faced with unforeseen expenses.

And with the economy officially in a recession, this is no time to be vulnerable in the face of financial uncertainty during an ongoing health crisis.

“Savings accounts are meant for people who are trying to save up for living expenses,” said Tatyana Bunich. “That money is not meant to grow. Savings accounts are meant for six months’ worth of living expenses set aside in case you lose your job [or] in case anything happens or for those one-time expenses.”

The Importance of Having an Emergency Fund

When it comes to the financial planning behind an emergency fund, a lot of factors come into play. Does the household have only one breadwinner? Are there any potential health complications? Is the car you use to get to work giving you trouble?

Keeping a rainy day fund for unexpected expenses can put a buffer between you and high-interest credit cards, Payday loans, and other debts that could impact your financial well being. The biggest problem is that building up that buffer takes time and discipline.

About 40% of Americans would be unable to cover a $400 emergency, according to a 2018 report by the Federal Reserve. Close to half of the adult population would have to resort to other means, like personal loans or credit cards, to meet the demands of an unexpected emergency.

Experts agree that six months’ worth of expenses is the best way to go. In the event of loss of employment, half a year worth of living expenses could buy enough time to find a new job.

“Six months is the industry standard. Again, most people don’t have it, but that’s always the goal,” said Bunick. “We’ve been in really good economic times these past 10 years, so a lot of people really slacked off and did not have savings because unemployment was so low, the job market was so good, and the economy was booming.”

Unexpected expenses don’t always come in the form of an emergency. Car trouble, home improvements, and even last-minute travel arrangements can come at a high cost. Cash will always be a better alternative to debt.

“I encourage my clients to refer to their savings as a curveball fund,” said Beth Agnello, Financial Planner at Fair Winds Financial Advice.

“Because sometimes if we call it an emergency account, we think this is only going to be used if I’m diagnosed with something really terrible, or my house burns down, instead of the more routine bumps that we didn’t anticipate in life, which require cash,” she said.

Good savings needs to be risk-free, that’s why it’s essential to have your money in a federally insured bank or credit union. Also, the money needs to be liquid, so you can move it out should you find yourself in need.

In these times of social isolation, a lot of people are finding ways to cut spending. If used properly, that extra money can serve as a silver lining to these unprecedented times.

Automate Your Savings

Funds like 401(k) plans and IRAs are usually regarded as beneficial because, among other reasons, your contributions can happen automatically. While your retirement fund continues to grow, you don’t have to give much thought to the money that’s being deducted from your paychecks.

When it comes to regular monthly savings, if establishing a habit of setting aside a fixed amount is too hard for whatever reason, leave it to the software to set the money aside for you.

Just set the amount and then forget it — automation will take care of the rest.

“What I encourage clients to do is to come up with a modest amount to start with, automate it, and then ratchet it up over time,” said Agnello. “Automatic is the way to go.”

The Long Road to Retirement (Without Debt)

Saving can help you build up a nest egg so your retirement is financially stable. When approaching retirement, you have to ask yourself about the costs involved in maintaining the kind of lifestyle you want.

Usually, the first step is to determine the amount of money that will enable you to do just that. How much you contribute to your savings account should depend on how close you are to your goal, which should in turn be based on your particular needs and wants.

But then there’s the question of debt. Yes, you’re saving and preparing for retirement, but are you dragging high-interest debt into your twilight years?

Once you’re living off your savings, pension, and/or Social Security, that debt can put a strain on your retirement plans.

“The ideal [scenario] is to go into retirement without debt, without a mortgage,” said Agnello.

While there’s such a thing as good debt, like mortgages, the bad kind of debt can compel you to push back your retirement because your finances are simply not as solid as they should be.

“Debt eats you up. It’s like the zombie apocalypse, debt never goes away,” said Howard Dvorkin, author, and Personal Finance Expert. “Debt just keeps charging interest. The problem I see is too many people going into retirement carrying credit card balances, which I have never seen before,” he added.

Managing Credit Card Debt

Without savings or an emergency fund in place, a lot of people will resort to credit cards to make ends meet. The biggest problem with credit cards is the high-interest rates, which right now are around 15%, according to the Federal Reserve.

And yet, credit cards do offer benefits. They help cardholders build credit, are accepted virtually everywhere, are great for online shopping, and some even offer reward programs and fraud protection.

While these perks look great at first glance, you’re only going to really reap the benefits if you pay off your balance regularly or, at the very least, keep it below 30% utilization so your credit score isn’t affected.

“Always pay down the credit cards no matter what, because you’re going to get charged 16% or 25% or even higher,” said Dvorkin. “You got to get rid of that or you’re never going to get ahead. That’s my attitude.”

But in the event of an emergency, should you rack up your credit card debt or withdraw from your savings account? Without exception, all the experts we spoke to agreed that using your savings is better.

“The only time I would suggest that someone consider using a credit card to fund a short term need is if it’s a person who is very capable [of] managing debt,” said Agnello. “And that’s not most people.”

Inflation and APY

Inflation is the term used to describe the rise in costs of goods and services. Right now, the average inflation rate stands somewhere between 2.5 and 3%. The International Monetary fund projects a 2.24% annual rise in prices until 2021.

What does any of this have to do with savings? Well, if your savings account APY falls short of the inflation rate, you won’t be earning a return, you’ll be losing money.

One of the most important factors involved with savings is the ability to retain your money’s purchasing power. This can only be done effectively if your APY cancels out inflation.

“Get a reasonable return that keeps up with inflation so that your $50,000, whether it’s next year or three years from now, [still] has the buying power that it has today,” said Ron Guay, Fiduciary Financial Advisor at Rivermark Wealth Management.

Right now, the cash you have in your wallet is losing value bit by bit because the cost of living continues to increase. Just think back to what you could buy with $20 in 1995. According to an inflation calculator, $20 in 1995 is the same as $34.07 in 2020.

Additionally, a product with a cost of $20 in 2019, would’ve cost $11.69 in 1995. That’s how inflation erodes the value of money across 25 years.

“If inflation, historically speaking, has been at 2.5%, I need to acknowledge that every year is eroding the value of my money,” said Alicea Cruz. “In the nitty-gritty, people forget that the cost of living continues to increase and if we don’t invest our money, we’re going to have a problem in the future.”

Savings Account FAQs

What is an APY?

Annual percentage yield is how much money an account earns in one year, taking into account the interest rate and compound interest. The higher an APY, the more returns the savings account will earn in a one-year period.

Will the returns I earn be taxed?

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) considers your returns to be income. Therefore they are deemed taxable just like any other form of income.

Why should I be concerned about inflation?

With inflation, if your savings aren’t earning returns, the value of your money begins to erode. For example, 20 years ago the value and buying power of $100 was not what it is today. Simply put, if the rate of inflation is higher than your APY, you’re losing money.

Why do some banks and financial institutions require a minimum balance?

There are many reasons for this, including the bank’s need for liquidity. For some banks, the balance in their accounts represents the funds with which they offer other products such as loans and mortgages.

Which is better in an emergency: Racking up credit card debt or withdrawing from savings?

Based solely on the fact that all credit cards charge you some amount of interest, it would cost you less to withdraw from savings.

What are some differences between a savings account, money market account, and a certificate of deposit (CD)?

Here are the basics: Right now, savings accounts offer returns just over 1% with flexible or non-existent balance requirements. You might be able to get higher interest rates from a money market account, but you’ll need to meet stricter balance requirements.

As for a certificate of deposit, your funds will be less accessible because in order to get the returns, your money needs to be tied up for a specified amount of time.

All three have effective but different ways of helping your money grow. As always, research the pros and cons to find the best savings account that suits you.

More Details

We ranked the companies on our list based on the following factors:

Rates and Maintenance

Some banks and credit unions charge setup or initial fees when you sign up with them. Others charge a monthly maintenance fee. And then there’s the possibility of getting slapped with penalties if your account isn’t meeting certain requirements.

We read the fine print of all the researched financial institutions to find what, if any, charges may be looming in the background waiting to deduct from your hard-earned dollars. Naturally, companies without any hidden fees or charges were ranked higher.

With interest rates and annual percentage yields, we found ourselves with a moving target. Given the state of the economy right now, yield rates have been fluctuating constantly.

Also, there’s the ongoing health crisis to take into consideration — any number of factors could affect the account rates from one day to the next.

While we discarded companies with a considerably lower yield than the determined average, we would still encourage you to do your own research to find the latest numbers when shopping for savings accounts.

Minimum Balance Requirements

We favored accounts that don’t require a minimum initial deposit. That said, we encountered accounts that do require you to keep a set balance month after month, in some cases as low as $5.

In other cases, we found requirements of minimum monthly deposits of at least $100, a condition that isn’t entirely negative when you consider you’re being incentivized to save money.

Again, diving into the fine print is the way to go. Financial institutions can claim zero balance requirements across the board, but there might be other fees — some as low as 60 cents — that will be taken out of your account with your approval but without your knowledge.

Federal Backing and Consumer Complaints

Insured financial institutions… is there any other kind? A bank or a credit union that lacks any kind of financial insurance could fail and possibly leave you without your money.

If your bank fails but is insured by an agency such as the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), your deposits are safe — at least up to the insured limit which tends to be $250,000. The other agency that provides this kind of protection is the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA).

Another factor that we looked into is complaints filed with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). After establishing the average at 639 complaints, we only reviewed financial institutions whose filed complaints fell below that amount.

Granted, complaints are just one part of a bigger story, but when a financial institution has four times the average amount — despite having a comparable number of account holders — that might be considered a red flag.

All the accounts we reviewed have had comparatively few complaints filed against them and are all backed by the federal government.

App Availability and Customer Support

There’s a lot to be said about the convenience of having access to your bank or credit union with just a few taps on your smartphone.

For those who want to monitor their balance regularly, a mobile app offers the ability to do this along with other perks, like depositing a check with ease or calling up your account history in a matter of seconds.

Customer support that’s available around the clock might not seem like such a strong selling point, but should you find yourself needing to speak to someone from your bank at unreasonable hours, you’ll be glad this feature is available.

What it comes down to is simple: Modern-day consumers are not only expecting the brands and institutions they patronize to be available around the clock, but actively demanding it.

Twenty years into the 21st century, that is the kind of consumer that solid mobile apps and quality customer support are aiming to please. Savings accounts that provide this kind of access to consumers ranked higher on our list.

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